3 largest M1 shareholders reviewing their stakes

Speculation over the potential sale or privatisation of M1 has been rife in the market as Singapore readies itself for a new entrant in the telco market. As the smallest mobile operator here, M1 is the most vulnerable to the increased competition, an
Speculation over the potential sale or privatisation of M1 has been rife in the market as Singapore readies itself for a new entrant in the telco market. As the smallest mobile operator here, M1 is the most vulnerable to the increased competition, analysts say.ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG

Review by SPH, Keppel T&T and KL-listed Axiata 'may or may not lead to a transaction'

The three largest shareholders of M1 are undertaking a "strategic review" of their stakes in the local telco. Combined, they own more than 60 per cent of M1.

The disclosure came after M1 and its two Singapore-listed shareholders - Keppel Telecommunications & Transportation (Keppel T&T) and Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) - called for a trading halt on their shares yesterday afternoon.

SPH said after the market close that it has, with Axiata Group and Keppel T&T, jointly appointed Morgan Stanley Asia (Singapore) as financial adviser to assist with the strategic review, which "may or may not lead to a transaction".

It said this was in reference to a Bloomberg report which said that the shareholders are evaluating selling their combined stakes in M1, citing unnamed sources.

Malaysian telco Axiata is M1's biggest shareholder with a 28.54 per cent stake, according to Bloomberg data. Keppel T&T owns 19.23 per cent of the company, while SPH holds 13.38 per cent.

"There is no assurance that any transaction will materialise from such strategic review or that any definitive or binding agreement will be reached," SPH said in a statement.

It added that it will make further announcements if and when there are any material developments that warrant disclosure.

M1, Keppel T&T and Axiata made similar announcements yesterday.

Prior to the trading halt, both M1 and Keppel T&T had received trading queries from the Singapore Exchange - after M1 shares soared 7.9 per cent to $2.19, and Keppel T&T shares jumped 4.9 per cent to $1.705.

Shares of SPH last traded at $3.53, 0.3 per cent lower than the previous day's close.

Kuala Lumpur-listed Axiata finished 3.3 per cent up at RM4.97.

Speculation over the potential sale or privatisation of M1 has been rife in the market since as early as last year, as Singapore readies itself for a fourth entrant in the telco market.

Australian telco TPG Telecom is set to launch its mobile services here next year.

As the smallest mobile operator in Singapore, M1 stands as the most vulnerable to the increased competition, analysts have noted.

M1's market capitalisation stood at $2.04 billion as at yesterday.

In a separate announcement, M1 said that its chief financial officer, Mr Nicholas Tan, 58, will be stepping down on Monday to pursue other interests. Its chief commercial officer, Mr Lee Kok Chew, 48, will take over Mr Tan's position, in addition to his current role.

Mr Lee joined M1 in 2007 and was previously chief financial officer of the company from May 2010 to February 2014.

M1 said Mr Lee is "well suited" for the role, given his more than 20 years of experience in finance, sales, operations and corporate strategy, as well as his intimate knowledge of the company's workings, business and staff.

"This is further complemented by his current focus on the company's strategy to build up a portfolio of digital solutions to capture new opportunities in the digital economy," it added.

The trading of M1, Keppel T&T and SPH shares will resume on Monday.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 18, 2017, with the headline '3 largest M1 shareholders reviewing their stakes'. Print Edition | Subscribe